Sharjah International Book Fair sets a new trail in Arab culture
Sharjah - The small UAE emirate of Sharjah has come a long way in the field of publishing and promoting Arab literature and culture since it had its first international book fair 34 years ago.
The 35th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair — now the third largest book fair in the world — is scheduled for November 2nd- 12th at the Sharjah Expo Centre. It will feature 1.5 million books, including 88,000 new titles, produced by 1,420 publishing houses.
When the first Sharjah International Book Fair opened on January 18th, 1982, there were only six publishers and few visitors. Late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and other intellectuals and writers were present, reflecting the intention on the part of the Sharjah Book Authority to be a major exponent and platform of regional culture.
An author himself, the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, was the driving force behind the event.
“Culture is a winning bet,” noted Ahmed bin Rakkad al-Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, invoking Sheikh Sultan’s quote that summarised the rise of the book fair from its humble beginnings.
Ameri and his team increased the profile of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) by visiting other major book fairs and forging partnerships with international publishers and cultural institutions, including UNESCO, the United Nations culture agency, this year’s guest of honour.
Working under the theme Read More as part of the Year of Reading being celebrated across the UAE, the event includes the third joint conference between the SIBF and the American Library Association, with the participation of more than 400 experts and librarians from academic, public, private and school libraries from around the world, Ameri said during a news conference.
“The logo of the book fair has been designed as a pen that can be used as a torch to illuminate the message of the UAE and Islamic civilisation to reach the outside world,” he said, stressing that “from the outset, SIBF was conceived not merely as a large marketplace for books but as a cultural event that brings together readers, publishers and intellectuals from the Arab world and from across the globe”.
Ameri said the UAE had the largest share of participating publishing houses at this year’s fair with 205, followed by Egypt with 163, Lebanon and India with 110 each, the United Kingdom with 79, Syria 66, the United States 63 and Saudi Arabia with 61.
The 35th SIBF edition is to feature top writers and cultural personalities among 228 specially invited guests. They include Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; best-selling thriller author Eric Van Lustbader, who has written 11 Jason Bourne novels; novelist Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of I’ll Be There; Claudia Gray, author of the Star Wars series; and activist and author Sister Souljah.
Australian novelist and screenwriter Graeme Simsion, whose book The Rosie Project has sold more than 1 million copies, is also to attend.
SIBF has been setting attendance records each year with nearly 1.3 million visitors in 2015, Ameri noted.
He projected that the 35th edition will be no different with a packed schedule of activities that cover the spectrum of arts, entertainment, education, culture and creativity.
Ameri said interactive feature Read for Me utilises kiosks equipped with sound recording systems. Users can choose a book to read and their audio recordings will be sent to centres for disabled people and nursing homes.
The SIBF traditionally attracts thousands of families. Younger visitors can enjoy the Beijing Circus, the educational musical show Sesame, Addams Family performances and the Digital Magician entertainment shows.
Sheikh Sultan has announced plans for a new exhibition centre — double the size of the current hall — to host the 2017 SIBF.